SAGE 2YC > Engage 2YC Students in Research

Engage 2YC Students in Research

Compiled by John McDaris of SERC.

Why Undergraduate Research?

Undergraduate research has been shown to have many benefits for students. In particular, undergraduate research:

  • helps students learn content and practical skills.
  • prepares students for the geoscience workforce.
  • promotes students' cognitive development (Lopatto, 2004).
  • promotes students' affective development (Krathwohl et al., 1964).
  • helps develop students' sense of self (Bauer and Bennett, 2003).
  • can be the hook to get students interested in pursuing geoscience as a career.


The What, Why and How of Undergraduate Research ยป
from Starting Point
These benefits are important for all students, regardless of institution. Early exposure to research experiences has been shown to be effective in increased recruitment of students, improved retention and persistence in degree programs, motivation for students to learn and increase self-efficacy, improved attitudes and values about science, and overall increased student success. An increasing number of four-year institutions are incorporating research into the introductory parts of their curriculum for these reasons. As more students, especially students from traditionally underrepresented minorities, begin their undergraduate education at two-year colleges (2YCs) and then transfer to complete their bachelors degree, it becomes increasingly important that they have similar research experiences in their time at those institutions if they are to be as successful as the students who begin college at four-year institutions. This suite of webpages addresses the particular opportunities and issues of implementing student research with students at or from two-year colleges.

A Range of Possibilities

There are many ways to get students involved in research experiences. This graphic illustrates a continuum proposed by Jan Hodder (University of Oregon) that characterizes different methods that faculty in different contexts can use with their students. The strategies on the continuum move from less difficult to implement classroom experiences on the left to more challenging program-scale experiences on the right.

Successful Models

Students at 2YCs often bring a different array of strengths and challenges to their education than those enrolled in four-year institutions. On top of this, conducting research at 2YCs can be difficult for a variety of reasons. But there are a number of ways that 2YC students can be successfully engaged in research experiences and there are programs showcasing how to put those models into practice around the country.

Possibilities at Two-Year Colleges

Faculty at 2YCs can face a variety of potential challenges to conducting research with their own students. Conducting research in class, designing a course around a research question, and developing an independent study program are potential solutions to these challenges.

2YC / 4YCU Collaborations

Relationships between institutions in the same area can have many benefits. Establishing relationships, conducting joint research, and partnering to support transfer students can contribute positively to the ability of students and faculty to conduct research.

Research Experiences for 2YC Students Outside the 2YC

Traditionally, the many schools and programs offering research experiences for undergraduate students only admitted students late in their degree program. As the importance of early research experiences has become established, more and more of these programs are being made available to students in the first two years of undergraduate study including those from 2YCs.

Webinar: Designing Undergraduate Research Programs for Students from Two-year Colleges

Formal research programs can provide a great opportunity for 2YC students to grow and learn what it is to be a geoscientist. Program directors at four-year institutions and other organizations can help ensure 2YC student participation and success through their choices when designing these programs. This webinar from 2014 features presentations by faculty who have had success developing REU experiences for 2YC students.

Solutions to Common Challenges

2YC faculty often face similar challenges developing research opportunities for their students. Rather than reinventing the wheel, faculty can learn from the experiences of colleagues who have overcome similar challenges in their own programs.

Example Programs

In this collection of program profiles, faculty at 2YCs have described their challenges, successes, and strategies for providing their students with research experiences in the geosciences. These programs can serve as models for other faculty who wish to develop or modifying their own research program.

Teaching Activities

Faculty from a variety of institutions have shared teaching activities they use to engage students in research experiences in their lower-division courses. These activities can provide models for implementing research at a number of scales.

Resources and Further Reading


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